The vortex of Cumberland Island

One of the many wild horses we encountered on Cumberland Island

We just spent the whole week on Cumberland Island! It was a vortex of beauty we just could not escape from. We decided to take a little vacation from our relentless push down the coast and enjoy this great place some more. We almost left a few days ago….we went 6 miles over to Fernandina Beach and got some fuel, water, and a few groceries and were about to set out to sea again, when we decided to just turn around and go back over to Cumberland Island and stay another day or two. The wind wasn’t that great anyway. I almost feel guilty for just hanging out there all week, but then again, if we can’t even stop to enjoy the places we pass by as we are traveling, then what is really the point of all that we did to be in this position? By saying “this position”, I guess I mean the fact that we are “homeless and unemployed”, which gives us this freedom to be out here doing this. But that is also the reason for us to push on, and not hang out anywhere too long…for the truth is we are basically out of money and need to get somewhere to get jobs, create some income flow, sell some more stuff. But hey, if we had motored along the ICW to get from Charleston to here, we figured it would have taken us a week, so we just spent that time in a more enjoyable way! And, this place fits our budget — the fee for 7 days at the park is only $4, and there is nothing else to spend money on!

Anyway, we’ve had a super lovely time here. I could go on and on about how much I love this place, but I think I did that already in the last post.
Yesterday we managed to hitch a ride with a park ranger up to the northern part of the island (the island is about 18 miles long!) and then spent the whole day walking back, exploring along the way. We saw the Plum Orchard mansion, another one of the abandoned Carnegie mansions that was donated to the National Park Service for them to take care of. This one is not in ruins, in fact it just got a new paint job and looks very spiffy. We also saw a real live armadillo! I have never seen one before, and wow, are they strange looking creatures. So sorry I don’t have a good photo. But here is a really bad one just to show you I tried. Our camera has been in a bad mood again.


Cumberland Island was a perfect place for me to try out my new running shoes.
I just purchased a pair of these funny looking Vibram 5 fingers shoes to try out for running. I used to run a lot years ago, but during a marathon I ran in 2003 I developed knee problems that have been preventing me from running ever since. I have tried all kinds of things to be able to keep running…..including a long list of doctors and bodyworkers, custom made orthotics, knee braces, special running techniques, different shoes, etc. I had pretty much given up on running, but that has been a big loss for me because running provides a certain mental therapy and stress release that I have not been able to find in any other activity. I just feel mentally way happier when I can run.

My new running shoes

Anyway, I had heard rumors about these Vibram 5 finger shoes being a “better” way to run because it creates a different weight distribution through your skeleton and it puts less stress on your knees. It’s basically like running barefoot, and proponents claim that it’s a more “natural” way to run. I was a bit skeptical, but since I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked, I decided to give this one last thing a try before calling it quits on running forever. Well, so far I am sold!! I ran and ran and ran until I couldn’t run any more and my knees didn’t start hurting at all! I can’t even tell you how happy I was to be running without pain, and to be running all over Cumberland Island was the icing on the cake! For anyone who likes trail style running, this place is, like I said before, A DREAM! There is no pavement anywhere. (these shoes are not meant for running on pavement, and who wants to do that anyway?) Soft trails through the forest AND a huge beach to run on — I was IN HEAVEN!!

My calves were VERY sore for a few days, as these shoes create a bigger workout for your calves than regular running shoes. I think I got a bit excited on the first day, and I had to tone it way down the next few days I tried running in them. But hey, three days of running and no knee pain!

Last night the wind picked up to a steady howl, with gale force gusts all night long. Wind like that is really loud on a boat, and we did not sleep well. In the morning we saw a bunch of fishing boats who had came in during the night and just anchored in the middle of the inlet to get off the ocean. It must have been pretty nasty out there if those guys came in like that. Guess we’ll wait one more day to leave! We are down to only beans and rice left on the boat, and so we came back to Fernandina Beach to catch the Farmers Market on Sat. morning before we head out so we can get some fresh veggies. The anchorage here is so yucky compared to the tranquility we got used to over on Cumberland Island! There are TWO huge, monstrous factories of spewing horrible smelling fumes all over the anchorage. And there is a strong current that makes the boat sit at a weird angle to the wind (which is still howling away) and it feels really sketchy and uncomfortable.

In other news, our boat has a leak. EEK! We are emptying the bilge multiple times a day and it has been starting to get alarming. The other day we took everything out of the cockpit lockers to get inside and take a look at what our friend Grant had suggested the problem might be: the stuffing box. Sure enough, we found our leak. The place where the propeller shaft enters the boat is leaking a lot, and we think that the solution is to replace the stuffing material. Not a project to attempt in an isolated anchorage. So we will keep diligently pumping the bilge until we get to a place where we can deal with it. For those of you who don’t know boats, and the terminology I’m talking about (Mom and Dad, I’m talking to you), our boat is not sinking. Just some drips of water.

Next stop: Ft. Pierce! The next few days we have east winds, and we are going on the ocean for a two hundred mile run.

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6 thoughts on “The vortex of Cumberland Island

  1. James Westmoreland

    Capt K,
    Still following every day. Looks like you are having some adventure. Hope everything continues to be in your favor. Don’t wait too long to get the leak fixed, and as always, I look forward to reading your next posting.


  2. Jim Deatsch

    You’ll need a ‘pick’ to pull out the old packing material AND a couple of wrenches (big ones) to undo the ‘nut’ and the ‘collar’. You know what I’m talking about you two?

    I just did this on our boat but it was on the hard.

    If you have a manual bilge pump that will pump LOTS of water then you can do it in the water.

    If you like, just put the boat up on the ‘beach’ like you did before and let her lean over. THEN you can do the packing replacement.

    Get the ‘dripless’ stuff like we did. It’s the nuts, really.



    1. admin Post author

      Hi Jim, Thank you for the suggestions. We do know that we need more than one wrench, and we are in the process of gathering together everything that we are going to need and planning the project. It doesn’t sound like a very fun project, just getting down to where the stuffing box is requires you to put yourself in quite a pretzel position inside the cockpit locker! We’ll let you know how it goes!

  3. Pen

    I’ve really enjoyed your Cumberland Island posts. I’ve been past but never checked it out. Have you by chance read “Endangered Species,” by Nevada Barr? It was not my absolute favorite of hers, but I did like it and it is set on Cumberland Island.

    Her books are a series of mysteries with the protagonist being a Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger named Anna. Each book is set in a different park (and the author was a Parks Law Enforcement Ranger before going to full time author). There is good description of the parks, their flora and fauna, etc.

    Back to your boat: Not to presume you have not done the obvious, but have you tried adjusting/tightening the stuffing box?


    1. admin Post author

      Pam, thanks for that book suggestion, it sounds like one I would really like!
      We are going to tighten the stuffing box when we get to Fort Pierce and can dig into the project a bit more. It was already tight though when we checked it, there wasn’t much movement when we tried. Thanks again for your comment!

  4. Sara

    We had a leaky stuffing box a couple of times. We managed to get away with just tightening it and didn’t actually replace the packing until we had the boat out of the water in Brunswick.
    They make special stuffing box wrenches, but they’re terrible. Just get a couple of pipe wrenches. They’re much easier to use. And easier to come by!
    Good luck! We enjoyed Fernandina Beach the night we stayed there. Such a cute town. But yes, it’s super smelly! And those factories are noisy, too!


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